Emergency departments on decline

Departments closing doors

About one-third of U.S. hospital emergency departments closed between 1989 and 2009, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers from UC San Francisco who conducted the study said most closures occurred in hospitals with a low profit margin and in for-profit hospitals in competitive markets.

As a result of the closures, emergency rooms are becoming increasingly crowded, and patients are being forced to travel farther to be treated, which is especially problematic in the midst of an emergency, said Renee Hsia, the study’s lead author.

The new federal health-reform law will increase coverage and may reduce some of the pressure emergency departments face, especially ones that serve a high proportion of uninsured patients, said Caroline Steinberg of the American Hospital Association.